Ch’eonan.September 2007. (Korean Accounts 2)
I arrived at Inch‘on airport, Seoul on Sunday 15th of September. I was supposed to be being met by one of the teachers from the school but this plan was abandoned a few days before I departed and they asked me if I could travel to Ch’ǒnan (天安市). The journey from London to Seoul was tiring and in total lasted about 32 hours. I spent 3 hours waiting at Dubai airport. I arrived in Seoul feeling very tired and after a little hassle managed to find a bus that travelled to Ch’ǒnan. The duration of this journey was about one hour fifteen and for most of the journey, which began as dusk was falling, it rained heavily. I had hoped that Ch’ǒnan might be a little less westernized than was Daegu because in the short walk from my apartment there to my old school I passed Baskin Robbins, MacDonalds and KFC. Well, my bus left the highway at the edge of the city and within a minute we were passing through the centre of the town where I know the bus terminal was located and as we approached it we passed The Outback Steakhouse, Baskin Robins, Dunkin Donuts, Macdonalds, KFC and as we turned into the terminal, I could see a Burger King a little way off in the distance.
It was raining heavily as I wearily lugged my bags off the bus and headed for the nearby shopping mall where I left my bag with an attendant and went to find a phone booth. By the time I returned Ted, the guy with whom I’d had most of my communication regards the school, was just entering the mall followed, moments later, by Mr Chǒng. From here I had to drag my bag through the rain to a suitable spot where Mr Chǒng could meet us with his car. Once he arrived we drove up to the school which didn’t seem too far away but I couldn’t really see much as everything was in darkness however, I could tell it was at the top of a hill. Turning the car around, we drove back down the hill and crossed the main road onto a rough track of a road on which stood a dog soup restaurant. It seemed only a minute or two from here to where my apartment is.
It was somewhat depressing arriving at my accommodation in darkness, tired, and in the middle of a storm that I later discovered was the edge of a typhoon. Though I now like my room, at first viewing it appeared dingy and uninviting. A large double bed stood in one corner and at the feet of this was a large number of boxes. Ted announced to me that the boxes would be picked up in a day or two but I’m not stupid, this is Korea and unless Ted is here himself to move them, they will be here for weeks on end. I wasn’t really pleased with how Ted announced this as a statement of fact rather than a request. Mr Chǒng and Ted stood looking around the room, praising it and were especially pleased with the double bed, which I must add, having since slept in it, is very comfortable, however, what captivated my attention the most wasn’t the lovely bed, but the grungy grey pillow and duvet that lay in a pile on the bed. The pillow was particularly disgusting as it had slobber marks all over it. I immediately knew that I wouldn’t be sleeping in Ted’s dirty laundry this evening. When they left I investigated the room further and though it was clean, I was quite amazed that neither Ted nor Mr Chǒng had seen fit to put any water in the fridge, leave me a little milk or wash my bedding. Ted had even beamed with a touch or pride when I opened the refrigerator door and saw a lonely, atrophied potato and onion. A soon as they left I walked down the road and discovered a small shop where I bought some noodles, milk and shampoo and as soon as I returned home and had unpacked, I put the dirty bedding in the washing machine. I eventually washed the bedding twice and they have since been transformed from a colour I thought was grey to pure white.